Physics and Chemistry


When were liquid crystals discovered?

Liquid crystals were observed by the Austrian botanist Friedrich Reinitzer (1857–1927) in 1888. He noticed that the solid organic compound cholesteryl benzoate became a cloudy liquid at 293°F (145°C) and a clear liquid at 354°F (179°C). The following year, the German physicist Otto Lehmann (1855–1922) used a microscope with a heating stage to determine that some molecules do not melt directly but first pass through a phase when they flow like a liquid but maintain the molecular structure and properties of a solid. He coined the phrase “liquid crystal” to describe this substance. Further experimentation showed that if an electrical charge is passed through a liquid crystal material, the liquid will line up according to the direction of the electrical field. Liquid crystals are used for electronic panel displays.


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